Rain – grey sky – total cloud – more rain – a tad drier later!
The time to get our Autumn Visit to Woolston Eyes under our belts didn’t quite coincide with the weather that we often conjure up in our minds for this splendid time of the year, when the sunshine dances through hues of trees bearing Gold and Copper clad leaves. Instead today, although the leaves were of that splendid autumnal patina as we parked up on Weir Lane, the other life-sustaining force of nature held sway and swept through the trees with its overbearing droplets of moisture!
The delay in setting off as waterproofs were hoisted into position was not wasted however, for about us, seemingly quite happy with this soggy day, was that relatively uncommon bird for our day list; the once super abundant House Sparrow which has suffered massive declines in its number over the past few decades. Fortunately, the jumble of hedges and feeding opportunities in this area supports quite a healthy flock of these cheerfully chirruping birds.
Then after the briefest of de-briefs, we set our feet in motion with a distant hide beckoning us to take shelter within its comfy surroundings, but being an inquisitive lot we soon paused to check out the loop of the Mersey upon which Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and Little Grebe bobbed about careless of the rain…well they would be wouldn’t they!
Strides in motion and we moved on …. at least twenty paces …. before we simply had to pause in order to admire three Redwing which sat atop a couple of tall Lombardy Poplar trees, but fortunately for us these soon continued with their restless migration allowing us to push on through the rain.
Once more in defiance of the conditions, we paused to note a pair of Gadwall as they sat out on the waters of the basin area. Then it was full steam ahead as we passed along the bank of number two bed pausing only to note a couple of Cormorant which had ‘draped’ themselves high up in some trees along the riverbank.
We ‘stormed’ over the footbridge with every intention of invading the ‘Tranquil Isle of Three’ to impose our ‘oohs and aahs’ upon this picturesque, well-managed and bird-rich spot of land which lies within reach of the hustle and bustle of the M6 Thelwall Viaduct to the east and the ever expanding urbanisation of Warrington to the west.
The elevated South screen invited us to get a little nearer to the moisture filled clouds revealing a large number of Teal which were taking advantage of the managed lower water level to hoover up seeds out on the exposed mud. Next, after ensuring that we had also added the sighting of a lone Shoveler to our list, we hot footed – or was that mud-slid – over to the comfort zone of the Morgan Hide.
A flock of finches tried to slow our progress, but as we knew they weren’t about to go anywhere in a hurry due to the rich pickings to be found on this bed, we valiantly ignored them and reached our sheltered spot saving them for later—phew!
A deep breath or two on noting the beautifully busy panoramic view that lay before us was then followed by (1) a rush to open coffee flasks and unwrap elevenses or (2) an equally hasty urge to note the wide variety of birds that lay before our eyes—being neutral I cannot myself say which of the two came first, but all I can say is that satisfaction lay over the Team like a comforting, and in today’s weather, waterproof blanket of peace.
Moorhen trundled about the place chucking their large footed prints all over the mud whilst a few Wigeon added a splash of colour to the exposed newly created mud banks as they came ashore to graze on the weed cover.
Grey Heron stalked the shallows for unsuspecting prey whilst a small flock of Common Snipe whizzed about the air looking for a patch of sheltered mud to land—their difficulty on this occasion seemed to be that they were spoilt for choice now that the bed has a better control of the water levels which at this time of the year needs to be as low as it was on this visit. Greenfinch delighted those watching the feeders and as each new species appeared these dedicated observers alerted the rest of the Team to these sightings thus I believe by the end of our visit all had been able to say that they had comfortably seen Willow Tit, Dunnock and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
A conversation that seemed fitting with the Grey Damp Cloud Enveloping conditions that ruled (but NOT ruined) the day then unhappily started to slide the Team towards the despairing reality that we as lovers of the natural world are all too aware of—the plight of our wildlife and their rapidly diminishing habitats BUT as there were no comforting bottles of wine around to drown our increasing sorrows — the siren call of a reserve doing its very best to offer a safe haven to this wildlife soundlessly drew our eyes and mood back to this days positivity!
A move to check the Stewardship crops which are at present drawing in a wide variety of seed-eating birds then got our legs back into action and our field skills into full throttle and as we slowly circuited round the inner section of the bed we managed to note at least 150 Chaffinch, 45 Linnet and a few Goldfinch before we headed back to our cars.
A pause in our progress to recheck the South Platform Hide then paid off as we locked onto a lone Black-Tailed Godwit giving a sufficient spread of species for our Rainy Day bird list to enable our release homeward which was as ever completed in the ‘gentle’ hubbub of contented conversation after another day in the inspiring arms of the natural world. (DS)
Bird List (CG)
- House Sparrow
- Collared Dove
- Feral Pigeon
- Black-headed Gull
- Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Herring Gull
- Greylag Goose
- Grey Heron
- Tufted Duck
- Little Grebe
- Pied Wagtail
- Blue tit
- Long-tailed tit
- Willow tit
- Common Snipe
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Carrion Crow